Friday, August 1, 2014

Chambéry to Lyon

On July 17th I completed my 2014 tour in France by returning to Lyon, from Chambéry. In fact I even returned to the same hotel.

View Chambéry to Lyon in a larger map

The day started, as usual, with a breakfast at the hotel. The hotel was fairly well established (i.e. old), well maintained and had an elegant feel. Breakfast was the usual selection, and great.

The Elephant Fountain, near my
hotel in Chambéry
Once on the bike I weaved westward through town, consciously trying to avoid consulting the map. My objective was, after all, pretty obvious -- it was to cross the suddenly formidable-looking line of mountains to the west.

Along the way I rode through a square in which a few dozen soldiers in striking white uniforms sat around having their morning coffee. According to Wikipedia, Chambéry is a base for the Chasseurs Alpin, mountain infantry, so that must have been them in their regionally-appropriate camouflage.

As the town gave way to the more rural foothills, I was looking at the line of mountains, trying to figure out where the pass, the Col de l'Epine, might cross. There wasn't really a low point. That was worrying.

The Chaîne de l'Épine, which according to Wikipedia
is the southern-most extension of the Jura mountains.
The Col de l'Epine is the notch on the far right of the photo.

On D916, climbing up to the Col de l'Epine
The day got started with a short sharp climb, one that included the most difficult kilometer of the day at 8.9%. After that the road leveled off a bit, then began a much more reasonable climb right up the ridge.

The day was clear, and the climb was warm but not uncomfortable. The road gradually shrank down to one of those 1.5 lane paths on which cars would have to slow down to pass. As it passed into thick woods, it reminded me of Route 236 climbing out of Big Basin. Really beautiful.

The woods obscured most views, but toward the top there was a scenic overlook, looking back on the valley.

Looking back on Chambéry from near the Col de l'Epine
At the top there was the usual sign, but in this case some guy was sitting right in front of it, leisurely eating. I didn't want a picture of that dude, so I didn't get my usual picture. He was camped out at the sign, and there were actual campers just emerging from their tent, too.

Looking down toward the Lac d'Aiguebelette
The road rapidly descends into a really pretty little valley, and then immediately begins climbing another hill toward the Col de la Crusille. All right, you'll never hear about that climb affecting the Tour de France, but how much more of this would there be before Lyon?

Not much, as it turns out. From there on, the road wound through pretty little towns, and the day got hotter. As I passed a fellow on the road he looked at me funny and asked whether it was too hot for riding. "Pas du tout", I told him, after a moment's translation.

Later I would begin to see his point, as the temperature continued to rise.

I followed minor roads until La Tour-du-Pin (why do all the towns in this area have "tour" in their name?). There I merged onto the D1006, a loud, busy, major road.

After picking up some food I had lunch in a pretty little park near Cessieu. I had filled my bottles again, so I was marginally prepared as the temperature rose past 41C on the long stretches of D1006.

Getting off the main road onto D147
Once I got past the airport, I cut right to find a little peace on more lightly traveled roads. The heat must have been getting to me, because in this stretch I kept taking wrong turns despite staring at the map. I missed most of Genas that way.

Gradually the farms turned to suburbs, and the suburbs into the town. I was once again in Lyon. I entered on D29, the Route de Genas, then the Cours Gambetta. That crossed Rhone at the Pont de la Guillotière, and onto the penninsula proper.

Roman ruins in Lyon
I hadn't had a chance to see much of Lyon on my arrival, so it was great to see this lovely old tourist-friendly part of town. I figured I'd ride down whatever road hugged the Saone, but as I approached the river I saw the beautiful buildings on the other side, and went to see them.

A bike's not a bad way to take in the sights. You can go just about anywhere if you're reasonably polite about it, and yet make good time between stops. What I wouldn't recommend is riding 120 km in 40C+ weather beforehand. It makes one less inquisitive.

Looking up toward the
Basilique Notre Dame
A random beautiful building.
I think this was a police station.
The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Lyon
I rattled down the cobbled streets toward the confluence of the Rhone and Saone, and my hotel. I arrived, my two-week ride complete, tired and crispy. Virtually all day I had been riding east to west, with the sun off my left shoulder, so my left arm and leg were quite burnt. On the whole I was also pretty dehydrated, and happy to have a long cool shower. After that I watched the Tour de France end its 12th stage in Saint-Etienne, just an hour's drive to the southwest.

Riding cobbles on the Rue du Doyenné
A building covered with
aluminum foil, apparently, near
my hotel.
The restaurant at the hotel was closed for a Jazz party (a Jazz party?), so I went to the attached Confluence mall to find dinner. I ate at a restaurant called Hippopotamus, which didn't serve its namesake. I had a very rare steak, sitting outside on the patio. Honestly, it was still too hot for that. I had another 50 cl bottle of wine, which is too much, and only at this late stage learned that it was apparently socially acceptable to take the rest of the bottle home. I definitely did that.

Elevation profile
This last ride in France was 73 miles, with almost 3500 feet of climbing. As I mentioned earlier, the most difficult kilometer came within the first few miles, climbing out of Chambéry early in the morning. I had absolutely enjoyed my tour, and every morning I was eager to get on the bike and ride. But this day's ride had drained my energy, from the surprisingly long climbs in the morning to the hot slog through the countryside. I was done. Well done.

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